The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), a key mechanism in the climate system, delivers warm and salty waters from the subtropical gyre to the subpolar gyre and Nordic Seas, where they are transformed into denser waters flowing southward in the lower AMOC limb. The prevailing hypothesis is that dense waters formed in the Labrador and Nordic Seas are the sources for the AMOC lower limb. However, recent observations reveal that convection in the Labrador Sea contributes minimally to the total overturning of the subpolar gyre. In this study, we show that the AMOC is instead primarily composed of waters formed in the Nordic Seas and Irminger and Iceland basins. A first direct estimate of heat and freshwater fluxes over these basins demonstrates that buoyancy forcing during the winter months can almost wholly account for the dense waters of the subpolar North Atlantic that are exported as part of the AMOC.
- Atlantic meridional overturning circulation
- Subpolar gyre
- water mass transformation
- bouyancy forcing